Thousands of Yorkshire children with rotting teeth are needing last-ditch hospital treatment amid repeated health warnings over sugary diets.
Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham have been highlighted as among the worst hotspots in the country for the numbers of children aged 10 and under seeking acute treatment for advanced tooth decay.
Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre has revealed more than 6,400 Yorkshire children were admitted to hospital with decay in 2014/15.
Overall, there have been 128,558 episodes of care for children aged 10 and under needing one or more teeth out across the country since 2011.
There were more than 14,000 cases of children aged five and under needing teeth removed from April 2014 to March 2015, while a further 19,336 children aged six to 10 needed such treatment – up from 30,761 in 2011/12.
Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, feels that the near 10 per cent increase in the number of children being admitted to hospital for tooth extraction over the past four years is “unacceptable”.
“Not only is tooth decay distressing to children and parents, it has serious social and financial implications,” he said. “The need for tooth extraction continues to be the number one reason why five to nine-year-old children are admitted to hospital.
“This issue urgently needs to be addressed, especially since 90 per cent of tooth decay is preventable.
“The problem is partly one of improving oral health education.
“The Government and dental professionals need to work together to raise awareness of the impact of sugar on tooth decay and improve children’s access to NHS dental services.
“Around 40 per cent of children still do not visit the dentist each year. Regular visits to the dentist encourage good oral health and provide rapid diagnosis and treatment to prevent children from being hospitalised due to tooth decay.”
In 2014/15 Yorkshire (6,413) was behind only the London (8,362) and the North West (6,672) for the number of children needing hospital admission as an inpatient for tooth decay. Sheffield was the worst hotspot, before Doncaster, Rotherham and Liverpool.
The North East experienced 1,679 cases, while the East Midlands had 1,320 and the West Midlands 1,707. There were 1,328 cases in the East of England, 3,042 in the South East and 3,255 in the South West.
Sara Hurley, chief dental officer at NHS England, said: “It’s really disappointing that even though people understand the impact of a sugary diet so many children have advanced tooth decay – a highly preventable disease.
“In England, children and young people drink more sugary soft drinks than anywhere else in Europe and we are also creating a legacy of obesity and significant health problems. If we are to get serious about tackling this then prevention is the key.”
Shadow public health minister Andrew Gwynne, said: “These disturbing figures show how badly the Tories are letting down children’s health in England.
“The Government should be standing up for parents, particularly those living in more deprived communities, and helping them to tackle tooth decay. Instead, their responsibility deal has failed and children’s health has suffered as a result.
“Ministers need to wake up to the scale of this challenge and start taking action to prevent children living unhealthier lives than their parents.”